Has anyone else suddenly been hearing people talk about Shinrin-Yoku (森林浴) ? I google’d it the other morning after noticing it popping on the news and in my Instagram feed. Shinrin-Yoku is a Japanese practice that translates as “forest bathing” with (sometimes frustratingly) simple directions: Find a forest. Walk through it slowly. Breathe. Sounds easy enough, right? Riiiiiiiighht.
In an increasingly tech world, even our children are suffering from an extreme deficit of outdoor time. I’m sure you too have heard the always-depressing stats detailing how many of our children’s waking hours are spent in front of a screen. So often, we’re inundated with these dreary statistics, but aren’t really given any good advice on how to work toward reversing the ever-growing proliferation of screens during our (and our children’s) days.
When I started researching Shinrin-Yoku, my first thought was, “Ok. Here is a REAL answer” (and PS…you don’t need a forest). Here is something that has proven physical and psychological benefits.
The benefits of Shinrin-Yoku with children:
- Decrease blood sugar levels
- Increase immunity
- Stimulate creativity
- Helpt to develop our senses – our emotions, our intellect, even our spirit grow in response to the natural world
- Cultivate an appreciation for nature
- Teach the importance of silence and how to be alone with one’s thoughts.
- Encourage curiosity and discovery
It also has a name. As insignificant as it may sound, being able to say, “let’s try Shinrin-Yoku” instead of “let’s do…something…outside” gives a specific direction and focus. It gives the tiniest bit of structure to an unstructured activity. It’s a great invitation to try something new, or for many, something old reimagined. Adults included! After all, the best way we can teach our kids to put down the tech and get outside is to DO IT OURSELVES (triple underlined!).
Inevitably, after a certain age, suggesting an activity that boils down to reflective time outside is going to bring on the scowls, eyerolls and sighs. Realistically, the chances of the “I’m BORED”s beginning 2 minutes in to this are so frustratingly high. We’ve posted a DIY for an origami nature box, but I think a great place to start with kids is with a modified version of the traditional practice – a loose translation that helps kids learn to develop a relationship with nature.
Simple Ways to Practice Dedicated Nature Time with Your Kids:
- Be the follower – invite your child to lead you on a walk outside
- Create leaf or bark rubbings
- Find direction without a compass
- Set up a scavenger hunt (little ones might prefer our simpler free printable nature scavenger hunt!)
- Create a nature collage (here are ideas for spring/summer and fall!)
- Start a nature journal or use our printable nature explorer pack
- Go barefoot
- Take a magnifying glass outside
- Explore underneath rocks and logs
- Adopt a specific spot to visit often or throughout the seasons
- Try leaf identification (you can take along our free printable activity kit!)
- Gather nature collections to use for art or play projects at home
- Listen for animal sounds and start a list
- Pick an evening to read a book outside every week
Want to go a little deeper? Richard Louv is a great champion of Children’s Nature Education and has written some awesome books about building connections between nature and children. Two of our favorites are ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder’ and ‘Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life‘ – a treasure-trove of good suggestions!
Some of our Favorite Nature Discovery Resources for Kids:
Looking for easy, but action-packed solutions for helping kids discover the joy of the outdoors? Check out a few of my favorite resources…
- When I’m in need of outdoor play inspiration Mother Natured is my go-to website for quickly finding engaging, creative children’s nature activities.
- Little Oak Learning – From the beauty-drenched brain of Jill Wignall, this site is full of printable activities so gorgeously illustrated and conceptualized, you’ll want to print copies out for yourself (no, seriously). From paper dolls and weather kits, to field guides and activities that will help your children find natural rhythms (in nature and daily life). Every activity is an invitation to fall in love with the outdoors.
- 1000 Hours Outside is a website dedicated solely to encouraging quality family time spent outdoors. Their free printable trackers are a fantastic way to give kids a way to visualize and log outdoor time and keep up the motivation to get outside.
- Tinkergarten offers expert-designed outdoor classes and activities to help kids ages 18 months—8 years develop core life skills while enjoying healthy, fun, engaging experiences in the physical freedom of local green spaces. For those who aren’t in a city with local classes, their online community and free activity library are chock full of resources you can use to easily re-create the experience at home.
- The Wild Explorers Club, a subscription-based adventure program for kids aged 6-12, includes weekly video assignments, a monthly print magazine, certificates & worksheets, and a free patch for each adventure level completed. This is one of my new favorite birthday gifts for kids (and follow them on Instagram for some beautiful outdoor inspiration!)
Have you tried Shinrin-Yoku? Have any ideas you’ve tried out and loved with your kids? Share them in comments!
With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help families discover their creative potential and be inspired to make the world a better place through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community.
When not playing with ideas, designs and projects for barley & birch, Amanda enjoys working as a modern art curator and managing her own small design business.